McNeil leaves Cappielow for coaching role in China

Goalkeeper Andy McNeil has been granted his release in order to take up a coaching position with Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F.

The 29-year-old former Livingston and Hibs shot-stopper was contracted to the club until the end of the season, but manager Jim Duffy felt he could not stand in the way of a wonderful opportunity for the player.

McNeil told “I’ve left Morton now. Basically, I had the opportunity to go and work as the reserve goalkeeping coach for a team in China, Guangzhou R&F, which wasn’t something I expected; it came out of the blue.

“I do some goalkeeping coaching for Edusport Academy, run by Chris Ewing, and a representative from Guangzhou R&F got in touch with Chris looking for someone to work with their goalkeepers. He phoned me and said I should have a listen.

“I spoke to the manager about it and he obviously wanted me to stay at the club, but he also recognised it was a unique and pretty good opportunity.

“He was very, very good about it and he just said I should do what ever I wanted to do. If I wanted to stay, he would be delighted to keep me at the club because I had played quite a few games in the first half of the season.

“But he also completely understood and said that if I wanted to go and take on this opportunity, he was more than happy to support that as well, which was great. It’s not going to be easy but I’m really excited to go there and get started.”

Special bond … Andy in the thick of the celebrations in his last game                                             © David Bell

McNeil, who kept six clean sheets in 14 first-team appearances for the club, including a shutout in the Christmas Eve win over Queen of the South, says he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Ton.

He added: “I finished there on Saturday against St Mirren – that was my last game. When I came in in February last year, I had been at Alloa and it didn’t go too well there.

“I left and wasn’t really actively pursuing anything. The gaffer Jim Duffy phoned me up and asked what I was doing, and I initially wasn’t too keen on getting back into football. I had no intentions of playing again.

“But after speaking to Jim and hearing him talk, I changed my mind and ended up signing and having a really good time. The success the team has had has been fantastic.

“We just missed out on the play-offs last year, the team’s sitting third at the moment, we got to the League Cup semi-final and had a great day out at Hampden, and even the big Scottish Cup game at Celtic was pretty cool.

“It ended up being a massive turnaround from where I was at Alloa to where I ended up, so I had a really good time with a fantastic bunch of guys.

“I travelled through with Lee Kilday, Ricki Lamie and Derek Gaston. They are fantastic guys and it was good fun, those early-morning drives with good company. I had a really good time at a good club that was enjoying success and I feel really lucky.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to leave at this time if it wasn’t for this opportunity. This came up and I felt that I had to do it – under different circumstances I would have fulfilled my contract until the end of the season and taken it from there.

“Right up until the very last minute I felt fully involved. When my big mate Ricki scored on Saturday, I was right off the bench and getting involved in the celebrations. It’s a really good club with really good people. I had a great time.”


Images: David Bell